REVIEW: ‘After Yang’ Highlights the Power of Science Fiction as a Genre

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After Yang - But Why Tho

Science fiction is at its most powerful when it’s telling stories of the human condition in relation to technology and After Yang does just that. From A24, After Yang is written and directed by and based on the short story, “Saying Goodbye to Yang” from the book Children of the New World by Alexander Weinstein. It stars Colin Farrell, Jodie Turner-Smith, Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja, and Justin H. Min with Sarita Choudhury, and Ritchie Coster.

After Yang lies at the intersection of technology and humanity as a family of four have to say goodbye to one of their members, Yang (Justin H. Min), an android brought into the family to help the couple raise their daughter and to maintain a connective thread to her culture. Opening with a wholesome dance sequence where the family competes against others by performing a routine, After Yang is immediately emotive. A loving family on display, we’re welcomed into their home and into their life. But when his young daughter’s beloved companion, an android named Yang, malfunctions, Jake (Colin Farrell) searches for a way to repair him.

Moving between an emotional connection to Yang and understanding that he did more for the family than share Chinese fun facts with their daughter, Jake’s journey to keep his family whole results in him realizing how much he had been missing. The process of attempting to repair Yang becomes a process of reconnecting with his wife Kyra and his daughter Mika. That said, the beauty of After Yang comes from how the gap between Jake and his family slowly unfolds. While Yang was irreplaceable in ways, a true member of their family, he was also a way for the family to drift apart. Overreliance on Yang dug a chasm they didn’t know existed, but in following Yang’s care and empathetic path, they come together.

This film is pure science fiction in the most beautiful ways. It uses technology to explore grief and family in a way that showcases the depth of the experiences. Jake and Kyra have opposing views on Yang. While he is clearly a brother to Mika, to Kyra, the scientist of the family, he’s an expensive caretaker, nothing more and nothing less. For Jake, he sees the sibling relationship between Mika and Yang and wants to cultivate it and ultimately save it. There is an emotional minefield that lies between Jack and the solution to his problem. Fixing Yang means meeting people who sell androids for parts, who preserve them in museums, and ultimately, puts Jack in front of ethical quandaries like when he meets with his pro-cloning nature.

Make no mistake, After Yang is a dystopia. It isn’t a loud wasteland, but rather a quiet future where past catastrophes have shaped its present. And the present Jack lives in is one where bigotry and racism are rampant, not a thing of the past. This film confronts it and has its audience experience this world in all of its failings in the fear for Mika’s future and how the world revolves around Yang.

All of that said, After Yang’s grief and confrontation of loss is heartening. Farrell as Jake is a man who grows and learns, pushed by the love he has for his family. But for all the musings of the film, it’s one intimate conversation between Yang and Mika that took my breath away. An adopted child, Mika has to learn what it means to be a family not connected by blood. Pushed to think about this by her classmates, she asks Yang what it all means. She doesn’t look like her parents, her parents don’t look like each other, and yet, they’re connected.

Walking through an apple grove, the pair looks at trees until they find examples of trees that have been grafted onto each other. As Yang explains, each tree means something, but when they come together, they create something new. It doesn’t depreciate either of their pasts, but it does create something new. In one exchange, I could feel the conversations I had with my mom growing up after the first time I was told by classmates that my dad wasn’t my “real dad.” It’s a moment that shakes a child. It pulls the rug out from under them and the future that was once sure seems cloudy. Yang’s explanation is not only beautiful and heartfelt but the best conversation I’ve seen on the topic in a long while.

There is pain in After Yang. Throughout the film you hurtle towards an answer you’re uncertain about: can they fix Yang? And as the film grows, you begin to wonder, should Jake fix him? All of this builds an uneasy atmosphere that captures you both visually and emotionally. The beauty of After Yang is that it highlights the power of science fiction as a genre. It’s not in big set pieces or concepts, but rather in imagining how humans connect across technology and time.

After Yang is out now on Showtime.


After Yang
8.5/10

TL;DR

There is pain in After Yang. Throughout the film you hurtle towards an answer you’re uncertain about: can they fix Yang? And as the film grows, you begin to wonder, should Jake fix him? All of this builds an uneasy atmosphere that captures you both visually and emotionally. The beauty of After Yang is that it highlights the power of science fiction as a genre. It’s not in big set pieces or concepts, but rather in imagining how humans connect across technology and time.